It’s a full slate of celestial delights for August
Published 6:02 pm Tuesday, July 25, 2023
By Deane Morrison
August serves up a smorgasbord of celestial delights, starting with a full “super” moon on Aug. 1. As it rises that evening, the moon will look bigger and brighter than usual, thanks to being less than a day from perigee, its closest approach to Earth in a lunar cycle.
Saturn begins August very low in the east at nightfall. All month long it climbs higher as it drifts westward. On the 27th it reaches opposition, when Earth laps it in the orbital race and it appears opposite the sun in the sky. Mid-month will be a great time to view the ringed planet, with a small telescope if possible, because no moon will interfere.
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In the last few days of August, you may catch Jupiter rising in the east in the late evening. Don’t confuse it with Capella, the bright star low in the northeast on those nights. Also at month’s end, Venus rockets into the eastern predawn sky. Our sister planet joins Sirius—the night sky’s brightest star—and all the iconic winter constellations.
The night of Aug. 30, we’re treated to a second super moon. It rises less than an hour before reaching perfect fullness and on the same day as perigee. As the second full moon in a calendar month, it will be dubbed a blue moon.
The renowned Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak the night of Aug. 12 to 13. This should be a good year for the shower because we’ll have five hours of moonless sky, starting around 10 p.m. Aug. 12. The Perseids represent the fiery demise of dust particles left by Comet Swift-Tuttle, which last whipped around the sun in 1992 and won’t return until 2125. According to NASA, the nucleus of Swift-Tuttle is about 16 miles across, or about twice the size of the rock believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.
The University of Minnesota offers public viewings of the night sky at its Duluth and Twin Cities campuses. For more information, see:
• Duluth, Marshall W. Alworth Planetarium: www.d.umn.edu/planet
• Twin Cities, Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics: www.astro.umn.edu/outreach/pubnight
• Check out astronomy programs, free telescope events, and planetarium shows at the
• University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum: www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/astronomy
• Find U of M astronomers and links to the world of astronomy at: http://www.astro.umn.edu